"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies." Psalm 141:3-4
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, Polonius, never at a lost for many words, dares to declare that “…brevity is the soul of wit…” While he pontificates on and on, Hamlet is doing his best to ignore him. Polonius, seeing him looking intently into a book, asks him;
PPOLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
Perhaps Hamlet's intent was to respond in as few words as possible to counter the loquacious verbosity of Polonius.
But are words merely meaningless utterances as Hamlet would suggest?
Not at all!! Though the nursery rhyme says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” the truth is, life and death are in the power of the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21) Words can heal and they can also harm!
With the same mouth men speak to bless God, and to curse men. According to James 3 this should not be.
“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” James 3:8-10
Words spoken in jest or in callous arrogance without regard for how they will land on the hearts of the hearers can be devastating to the soul. What may seem funny to the speaker can cause embarrassment, and great harm to the hearer. Young children are especially vulnerable to the harsh words of adults, parents, teachers, even spiritual leaders, and of course, their peers.
This is also true for many adults who have been wounded in childhood or grieved or victimized as adults by some harsh or tragic life experience.
This is why we are called to put a watch over our tongues and speak only that which edifies the hearers.
A word of encouragement, comfort, compliment, kindness, or peace can edify the soul and bring life to the recipient.
“A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
If you are not absolutely certain how your jibes, quips or cutting remarks will be received even with close friends, don’t say them, unless your intent is to harm and bring hurt to the one you are speaking to or about. If that is the case, then you need to pray that God will put a guard over your mouth so you don’t succumb to that temptation. I'm not talking about familial banter between loved ones who know us and know our hearts.
I am talking about the words we let fly out of our frustration, or anger, or disgust in the presence of people we don't know that well and who don't know our hearts, and especially in the presence of little ones.
In this current social and political climate of unrestrained vitriol and anger, where evil men are constantly filling the air with invective, false witness, lies, slander and threats of violence and harm to those who would oppose their evil works, it is hard not to just vent our righteous indignation without regard for how it will affect those around us. But we must be patient in midst of such temptation and reserved our venting for tmes when we are alone or within our small, intimate circle of trusted friends and companions who understand and are mature enough spiritually not to be negatively afected by it.
As Ambassadors of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are charged to be His voice, speaking life and light in the midst of the darkness, not countering evil with more evil.
That is not our identity. That’s not “how we roll!”
As He is so are we in this world. We are to be the repairers of the breach, the restorers of the waste places to dwell in. That's who Jesus is, therefore that is how we must represent Him.
Are we not a chosen generation, a royal priesthood a holy nation? Are we not God's own special people, that we should proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into HIs marvelous light?
Read Isaiah 58 and let's look into it more deeply in the next few days.
1 “Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
3 “Why have we fasted,’ they say, “and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
‘In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
‘If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”